Archive for April, 2006

Don’t expect miracles

Many people equate Feng Shui consultants with miracle-making abilities. Clients sometimes think that Feng Shui consultants can wave a magic wand, apply a formula and make all their problems disappear or turn them into millionaires when they follow certain water formulas. Feng Shui does not work like that. It is not magic. Feng Shui consultants are not graduates of Hogwarts!

Let’s go back to the basics. Feng Shui is about tapping and making use of the correct Qi in the environment, thus maximising the potential of the environment around your property to improve your quality of life. There are many positive improvements that Feng Shui can bring to a person’s life but one has to be cautioned that there are also limitations in what Feng Shui can do, particularly if the role played by Feng Shui is not understood correctly.

When the Qi in the environment is working for you, you feel better, you are more energised, more motivated, more alert, you are able to respond to opportunities better and thus this contributes to your ability to perform better at work and enjoy positive relationships with those around you. When you are happy and relaxed, you are able to pursue your goals with a clear mind. Often, wealth and increased prosperity or affluence is an outcome of that positive state of affairs.

But having the best Feng Shui in the world is of no benefit if the person does not take any action. Sometimes, people have the misconception that once they utilise Feng Shui, there’s no need to lift a finger – the formula (or if you are into New Age Feng Shui, the trinket, amulet or figurine) will do everything for you. As much as I don’t want to shatter anyone’s illusions, Feng Shui cannot make money or miracles from nothing. Old fashioned hard work is also required.

In Feng Shui, there are techniques and systems that can be used to produce quick results or bring about results that are more instantly notable. For example, using Water formulas often brings about faster results than using Mountain formulas. But of course, Water also does not bring about lasting results. For that, you need to use Mountains. Similarly, the Eight Mansions system produces more steady and gradual results and is suitable for long-term outcomes whilst the Flying Stars system produces quicker, short-term outcomes. But no matter what system is used, not taking action is simply a zero-sum gain. So today, I’m going to share with you why action matters more than most people realise, when it comes to matters of Feng Shui.

The Philosophy of the Cosmic Trinity


One of the core concepts of Chinese Metaphysics is the theory of the Cosmic Trinity. The Cosmic Trinity refers to the three factors that influence our lives: Heaven, Earth and Man. Each of these three factors exerts an equal influence on us, which if you are into percentages, is around 33.33%.

Heaven refers to a person’s Destiny, the life path that is laid out for a person at the time of his birth, as influenced by the stars, elements and Qi present in the solar system at the time of the person’s birth. Chinese Astrology, either through BaZi or Purple Star Astrology, is how consultants decipher what a person’s Destiny is.

Earth refers to the environment in which a person lives in or works in. It is this aspect of the cosmic trinity that Feng Shui looks to address and help improve.

Finally, Man refers to the actions and choices that a person makes in life. His beliefs, education, aspirations and virtues.

Each of the above three factors is inter-related. They do not function in isolation. For example, in an ideal situation, a person would have good Heaven Luck (a superior Destiny), good Earth Luck (excellent Feng Shui) and good Man Luck (the ability and wisdom to make the right choice and take the right action). When all three factors operate in tandem, everything is smooth.

However, when there is a problem with any one of these factors, then it also impacts on the other components. For example, if a person is not going through favourable Heaven luck, according to his BaZi (Eight Characters or Destiny chart), then the chances of that person being able to find a good house or live in a place with favourable Feng Shui (i.e. the Earth Luck component) is reduced. Accordingly, he has to rely on the action he takes or the choices he makes (i.e. the Man Luck component) to overcome any obstacles or problems he is facing.

Likewise, if a person is not destined to be a millionaire for example, then from a wealth perspective, that person starts out at a disadvantage. In these instances, Feng Shui can help bring about some improvement but the rest has to be old-fashioned hard work and financial prudence – making the right choices and taking the right action.

Many clients and students of Feng Shui find it difficult to understand this concept because often they try to reason or understand how it all works together. The Cosmic Trinity is really a metaphysical chicken and egg scenario – we could go on and on about which comes first, which matters more and which should be prioritised. I think it’s much more important for people to appreciate the concept and understand that the Cosmic Trinity illustrates the point that taking action and taking the right action at the right time, is just as important as having the right Feng Shui.

Doing the Right Thing, At the Right Time

BaZi is a good example of how action is just as important as knowing what destiny has in store for a person. When a client comes for a BaZi analysis, as a consultant, we help our clients understand their life path, understand their talents and abilities, how they could capitalise on their best years and lie low during the difficult years. But, I always emphasise to clients that it is one thing to know what Destiny has in store for you and knowing your personal potential, but it is another thing to actually achieve it. For that, a person needs to take action and make the right choices.

For example, let’s say that someone has great potential to be a writer or perhaps a music star. If this person simply sits at home and does nothing but watches television or idles his time away, then his potential is not achieved because he did not take any action and thus, did not put himself in a position to maximise his talent and potential. Knowing your abilities and potential is one thing. But not doing anything means you are not going to achieve the greatness you were destined to achieve.

So what does this all mean when it comes to Feng Shui? Firstly, my goal in this article is to enable my readers to understand and appreciate why Feng Shui is not a miracle practice, and why it is not magic. It is simply because it is just one of the components in the Cosmic Trinity.

Secondly, it is important that people appreciate the limitations of Feng Shui. Yes, in my previous articles, I have written about how Feng Shui, when properly utilised, can create Emperors and be used to build empires. But all this does not happen because of Feng Shui alone. There is a Heaven component to it and a Man aspect to it as well. Often, it is hard for Feng Shui enthusiasts to understand why after paying a considerable amount of money and spending hours on fine tuning their house, they are still not millionaires or still not getting what they have wanted to achieve. The Cosmic Trinity offers the answer to that question.

Thirdly, it is important that anyone who intends to seek the advice of a Feng Shui consultant, knows that Destiny analysis is an important component in the practice of Feng Shui. Through the use of BaZi (also known as Eight Characters or Four Pillars of Destiny) or Zi Wei Dou Shu (Purple Star Astrology), Destiny Analysis provides the means to achieve a diagnosis of a person’s challenges or problems in life. Feng Shui is only the prescription. Some Feng Shui practitioners make recommendations or suggest Feng Shui remedies without carrying out a personal destiny analysis of their clients. When Feng Shui remedies are suggested without an analysis of a person’s Destiny through BaZi or Zi Wei, it is like giving a ‘cure’ or a prescription without a proper diagnosis, it is unlikely that the remedies will be effective.

It is possible that some Feng Shui practitioners do not like to talk about limitations. Perhaps it may be because shattering people’s dreams is difficult and unpleasant. Or may be it is easier for them to give hope to their clients rather than to tell them that the only way for them to be wealthy or successful in this lifetime is to work hard! And perhaps, it doesn’t sound like what most people want to hear in this age and era of instant gratification. But if Feng Shui is to gain recognition as a creditable profession, then it is important for people to know that Feng Shui has its own inherent limitations because Feng Shui consultants are not in the business of creating miracles and the public must understand this. For starters, it will certainly go a long way towards preventing people from being taken for a ride when it comes to Feng Shui because they can now understand the context in which Feng Shui is utilised, and what it can and cannot do.

This is not to say that Feng Shui is of zero help either. If your Destiny is not so favourable or advantaged, with hard work and focus on a person’s part, plus a little extra push from Feng Shui, achieving your goals and dreams in life is not impossible. You may not get to your aim as quickly and speedily as a person with a better Destiny, but you could still get there eventually.

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Complex task of urban planning

Feng Shui has increasingly become a selling-point for property developers these days. From a marketing standpoint, it is easy to understand why property developers are paying more attention to Feng Shui issues - more and more buyers nowadays are placing greater emphasis on Feng Shui considerations.

As the public becomes more educated about Feng Shui, developers have to be more prepared to answer difficult questions when buyers approached them to buy property. Prospective buyers want to know where the entrances to the townships are, what direction the entire development faces, which direction the houses are facing, and some even bring their own Feng Shui consultants to survey the area. Well read prospective buyers may even come asking about the landform features of the property.

In response to buyers’ expectations, property developers are increasingly conscious about Feng Shui considerations and some have even taken the initiative to involve Feng Shui consultants in the process of planning and developing property projects, from malls to theme parks to residential projects.

So what exactly does a Feng Shui consultant do when it comes to large scale property development projects? And how do you know if the Feng Shui component of a development is the ‘real thing’, or just another marketing spiel? This week, I’m going to share with you what it is that Feng Shui professionals do, when they work on a large-scale property development project. By understanding what goes on when it comes to the Feng Shui of a large scale property project, you will be able to understand what role Feng Shui plays in urban development. You will thus be able to know what are the questions you should be asking a developer, especially if a strong marketing point of their development is that it has good Feng Shui!

Bringing Qi into the Picture

Today, many property development projects have a strong urban or town planning component to them because developers not only have to pay attention to just the homes themselves and the recreational facilities, but are also responsible for building everything from the roads to the playgrounds, and from clubhouses to marinas!

Undertaking the Feng Shui for a housing project or integrated property development is quite a complex and long-term engagement for most Feng Shui consultants. They are often on-board even before the project gets off the ground – at the planning and land selection stage – and frequently, this involvement continues through the development of the project, the construction from the ground up to the sales and launch of the project.

Often, the first thing the Feng Shui consultant does when it comes to a large-scale property development is to select the land. Now, as most property development companies have a land bank, a proper Feng Shui consultation will involve the survey of all these properties, usually from the air via helicopter to gain an insight into the contours of the land, including the mountain formations, streams, creeks and natural ponds. It is not difficult to see the Dragon (land coutour or mountain ranges), how it turns, moves and flows on the land, from an aerial view. From there, the Feng Shui consultant will usually be able to determine which piece of land is most suited for the development the developer has in mind. Not every piece of land is suitable for a commercial residential venture, and using the land for the right purposes is the first step towards ensuring a good start for the development.


At this stage, the Feng Shui consultant may also start the process of troubleshooting and problem-solving. For example, what to do with pylons or other threatening features located close to the land the developer has decided to buy or has already bought? Most residential house buyers will refuse to buy a house near electric pylons, even if they know nothing about Feng Shui. But if the pylons are located in an appropriate sector, this danger can be reduced and prospective buyers can feel assured by the knowledge that this kind of problem has been correctly or adequately dealt with by the developer, in line with Feng Shui principles.

It is for this reason that you should make sure that when a developer says the property has been Feng-Shui-ed, to ascertain at which point the Feng Shui consultant was involved. If the consultant is only brought on board after the development has been built, then chances are any improvements are likely to be purely cosmetic in nature. One of the important questions to ask is whether the consultant has been involved in the process of the land selection.

Melding Aesthetic with Qi Principles

Once the land has been selected, then the next step is to work on the designs for the buildings, be it houses, apartments, office blocks or an office tower. Here, the Feng Shui consultant will look at the preliminary design of the architects, and look for ways to find a synergy between the artistic and creative vision of the architect and interior designer, and the Feng Shui principles that need to be applied.

Most Feng Shui consultants would work with the design of the building, house designs or apartment layouts and suggest modifications to accommodate the Feng Shui needs of the structure. Now, these changes are often subtle and imperceptible to the untrained eye. For example, conventional wisdom states that residential properties should be square as that is the shape of the element of Earth. Earth stands for stability in the study of the Five Elements. However, very few people would want to live in a completely square house or apartment. So, obviously, the Feng Shui consultant has to see if a more aesthetic design can work based on the landform of the area. Odd shapes, be it for houses, apartments or buildings, are actually acceptable in Feng Shui if the large macro environment and the landforms support such a design. If you go to Hong Kong, there are plenty of buildings with features that seem to technically violate every rule on Feng Shui (sharp corners, sharp angles, pillars in strange places) in order to achieve a measure of aesthetic value. The Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, the Louvre Museum in Paris and the HSBC building in Hong Kong all have unusual structural designs to accommodate aesthetic interests but they do not all have bad Feng Shui.

For buyers, often it is difficult to tell what extent the Feng Shui consultant’s influence is on the design. Good Feng Shui consultants do not make their work obvious to the untrained eye – otherwise, it’s not Feng Shui! Suffice to say that if part of the marketing plan touts the colours of the property as ‘Feng Shui colours’ or that every property comes with stone lions at the entrance, you should take the ‘Feng Shui virtues’ of the property with a pinch of salt.

From the Macro to the Micro Details

Aside from the design of the apartments, offices or houses, the Feng Shui consultant also looks into the layout and flow of the roads and the overall infrastructure in the development. This is because roads are virtual rivers, and thus, are carriers of Qi. It is essential to ensure that the roads are not aligned according to void lines, where Qi flow becomes discounted and that there are angles in areas where it is acceptable to have a sharp angle because it doesn’t affect any of the properties in the development.

If the Feng Shui consultant has done his job well, then something as minutiae as lamp post placement would also be looked into and planned so that no prospective buyers is landed with a house that has a lamp post squarely in front of the main door, a big no-no when it comes to residential Feng Shui. The Feng Shui consultant will also ensure that each phase of the property is build to face suitable directions. For example, this may be done to avoid circumstances where certain phases of houses face a direction that is unfavourable or difficult to benefit from, based on the landform of the area. Or houses being inadvertently located facing a void line.

Water placement is also very important in Feng Shui. These days, it is common for many property developments to include recreational areas or playgrounds, with lakes, or man-made creeks, fountains and swimming pools. The Feng Shui consultant, taking into account the layout and design of the entire master plan, will make sure that the water is located in an area that benefits the residents overall, and is suitable for the location of Water.

Finally, the Feng Shui consultant will also select suitable dates for the ground-breaking work, to ensure the project gets off to a smooth start and there are minimal disruptions during the construction period, select dates for the hanging of the Main Door on the units, and also, select dates for the launching of the project, to ensure good sales!

Beyond Flying Stars and Eight Mansions

You might be wondering what techniques come into play when it comes to large scale development projects. For industrial and large scale size projects, like resorts, theme parks, large scale commercial residential projects or even town planning, Feng Shui consultants are not using simple systems like Flying Stars Feng Shui and Eight Mansions Feng Shui. It’s just not feasible. A theme park or town may have more than one entrance and exit – how do you determine which is the facing? The Feng Shui consultant will use different techniques for large-scale projects, because the considerations and concerns, indeed, the scale, is quite different, from undertaking the Feng Shui of one house.

Also, for theme parks, towns and resorts, their demands are different. For homes and residences, the priority is the needs of the residents whilst for a theme park or resort, the developer may not only want to generate good revenues, but also to ensure lots of visitors.

So the next time you check out a property development project and are told that the ‘Feng Shui’ is good – make sure you understand the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of the property, and if the Feng Shui of the property is your paramount considerations, find out what are the ‘Feng Shui features’ that make the property so favourable. Positive Feng Shui is always a good thing to have when it comes to a prospective property investment but it’s also important to make sure it’s the ‘real McCoy’ and not just the marketing fluff.

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Old practice in a new era

One of the challenges of modernising a profession like Feng Shui is really in changing the way Feng Shui is practiced. There’s still a very old fashioned idea of Feng Shui practitioners prevailing in the public’s mind – that they should turn up in Mao suits or Shanghainese long dress, speak in cryptic phrases and after offering a few short shrift words of advice, disappear, never to be seen again. If you have a problem don’t call them, maybe they will call you. If things don’t work out, well, that’s to be blamed on your fate or destiny. If you want to know why certain suggestions are made, the answer is you don’t need to know, just do it.

This is very much an outdated manner of practice, which functions very heavily on what we call ‘Master worshipping’ (where the Master is held in such awe that he is not to be questioned) and which takes for granted that the average layperson need not know why the master is doing something, they should simply trust him to do it and follow his advice. And this is not really how most Feng Shui practitioners work and practice any more these days.

It’s a modern world and like any other profession, Feng Shui practitioners have to move with the times. That means trying to bring a measure of professionalism to how they offer their services to the public and how they deal with the public. Today, I’m going to delve into what you, the public, should expect when you deal with a Feng Shui professional, in this day and age.

Improving Impressions

Understandably, many older masters in the profession still go about their practice in the old style way. Certainly, we cannot expect a profession that has only really become openly practiced since the turn of the last century, to be able to suddenly become modernised. This takes time. However, the trend is slowly and gradually changing - you can readily see this in Hong Kong, where more and more Feng Shui consultants now ply their trade from a proper office, and do so in suits and ties.


Of course, the newer generations of consultants are looking to take Feng Shui to an even more professional level. Feng Shui today is a service industry. It is striving to be on par with any other kind of consulting business –the Feng Shui consultants help clients determine what their problem is, and help them solve their problem. And so clients have a right to be treated like they would by any other service industry professional, be it a doctor, a dentist or an accountant.

Improving House-side Manner

In the past, the Feng Shui master turns up at your doorstep, makes a few remarks, tells you what to do and then is off. Nowadays, clients demand a proper meeting and follow-up sessions, wherein the Feng Shui consultant ensures that the recommendations have been properly implemented. Part and parcel of taking Feng Shui to a professional level is changing the way this service industry has always been practiced. This includes providing written reports for clients, so that they do not have to take notes on what they are supposed to do to improve their Feng Shui. Reports are often supplemented with photographs, so that the clients know exactly what they are supposed to do. To ensure that a complete service is provided to the clients, usually the Feng Shui consultant will also select a suitable date for ground-breaking or renovations to commence.

Professional consultants do not leave their clients in a lurch when something has gone wrong and certainly, no professional Feng Shui consultant will tell his clients that ‘it is their fate’ that the situation has become such. This is because if the Feng Shui consultant has been thorough in his job, he would have studied the BaZi or Destiny chart of his clients, before making any Feng Shui recommendations. If a client’s destiny does not demonstrate a capacity for great wealth or high status for example, there is already an inherent limit to what the Feng Shui consultant can do. Contrary to what most people think, Feng Shui consultants cannot fix and solve all problems – they can only help their clients, within the capacity that they are capable to have.

In this day and age, confidentiality is also something that many clients value and increasingly, it has become an important hallmark of Feng Shui consulting. You wouldn’t want your accountant spilling the beans on your books, and similarly, you don’t want your Feng Shui master telling everyone in the world that your house and office and factory have all been Feng Shui’ed. Now, there is nothing wrong seeking the services of Feng Shui professionals but, just like doctors, accountants or any other profession, client’s confidentiality is something that the modern day Feng Shui professionals must respect. Imagine your Feng Shui master going round attributing all your business success to his proclaimed Feng Shui skills, disregarding your own hard work and efforts!

The client of course is not bound by such a confidentiality requirement but the Feng Shui professional must always be the soul of discretion. This is especially the case when it comes to BaZi (Astrology) consults, where the consultants are often privy to very sensitive or delicate situations and clients must feel free to speak to the Feng Shui consultant about any matter, without worrying that it will make the 6 o’clock news!

Professionalism in how Feng Shui practitioners behave and act is also something that the profession is looking to improve. Most practitioners do not want to be known as a bunch of curt, tight-lipped professionals only offer up five words of cryptic advice, and leave the clients to figure out what it is that they meant. Lest you think I’m joking, there used to be a very famous Feng Shui master, reputed to be the master who advised Mao Tse Tung, whose words of advice never went beyond five Chinese characters. His was nicknamed Bu Guo Wu and he was an extremely famous Master in China in the last century.

Today, going to a Feng Shui consultant is like seeing a doctor – you’re entitled to understand what the problem is, how the diagnosis is arrived at and what is the prescription to fix your problem. Getting the right ‘house-side’ manner is something I try to emphasise a lot to my students – we cannot be so old-fashioned in our approach any more. In any case, being open and willing to provide explanations to a client’s questions is the best way to deal with client’s reservations or concerns. Quite understandably, no one is going to undertake certain renovations that a Feng Shui consultant has prescribed, or perhaps, even do something as simple as changing the room that they are sleeping in, unless the reasons are compelling and not frivolous.

Commercialisation without Selling Out?

I believe the next level of challenge for the Feng Shui profession is how the practitioners can take their knowledge and services to the public, but without cheapening the profession or encouraging ‘short-cut’ mentality.

Commercialisation is a necessary facet of every service industry but like doctors and dentists, who find a way to balance their Hippocratic oath with the need to make a legitimate living, so Feng Shui consultants are striving to provide a service and making it as accessible as possible. But, that doesn’t mean that they are obligated to help everyone.

Unfortunately, one of the prevailing problems facing the Feng Shui practice is, it is very often, all too easy, to resort to ‘product recommendation’ in order to make Feng Shui accessible. The founder of Revlon, Charles Revson, once remarked about the cosmetic’s industry: “In the factory we make cosmetics, in the drugstore we sell hope”. I do not like to think the Feng Shui practice is in the business of, to paraphase Revson, “selling hope in a figurine” but unfortunately, this seems to be part and parcel of what commercialisation brings.

One of the ways to provide a measure of accessibility and affordability is through books and articles in the media, and to attempt to correct the situation through education. Knowledge after all is power. Here too there are challenges - as more and more sources of information and books on Feng Shui appear, so there is the invariable temptation by the Feng Shui practice to stray from authentic methods and fundamental approaches, to return to the quick buck method of product recommendation.

Frankly, I personally think there’s nothing wrong with products per se. If someone tells me, they get a psychological lift out of wearing certain colours, or certain motifs of Dragons inspire them, or reading motivational calligraphy on their walls makes them aspire to achieve more in life, or oriental designed clothing empowers them (I like Shanghai Tang too!), that’s okay. Positive thinking is never to be knocked, and it doesn’t matter how you arrived at that positive state of mind. But what I think is quite wrong is to encourage the belief that a resin figure of a cat above your cash register is going to bring in business, or wearing a Dragon pendant is going to ward off your bad luck, and curing a 5 Yellow Sha problem is simply a matter of popping a cure in every West corner of your house. If only Feng Shui were that easy.

The Feng Shui profession is approaching a new renaissance period. As expectations grow with more knowledge and awareness, it is re-assuring for the public that the level of professionalism in the practice of Feng Shui is improving and more and more practitioners are adopting a service-orientated approach. I look forward to the Feng Shui profession taking a greater step forward, towards encouraging greater understanding and recognition, while making it more accessible to everyone.

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Feng Shui at Shaolin temple

One of the most fascinating and interesting aspects of studying Feng Shui is something known as ‘Walking the Mountains’. In a modern educational context, ‘Walking the Mountains’ is like going for industrial training or practical training. It is when the theories and principles of Feng Shui are observed in application.

It doesn’t matter whether or not a person is a proponent of San Yuan or San He Feng Shui – both these primary Feng Shui systems recognise the importance of observing and assessing the Landform in the environment, in tandem with the application of formula based assessment. Many Feng Shui classics, such as the Green Satchel Classics and Snow Heart Classics, talk about ‘chasing the Dragon Veins’, which shows the importance of Landforms in Feng Shui and the importance of understanding the Forms that influence the area.

So what do Feng Shui students do when they ‘Walk the Mountains’? Feng Shui is part of the study of Physiognomy, one of the Chinese Five Arts. Physiognomy is essentially the science of observation. Accordingly, ‘Walking the Mountains’ essentially involves observing and studying the Mountains, learning to distinguish different types of mountains, recognising formations such as the Prawn Whiskers, Crane’s Knee and Crab Eyes (and in case you’re wondering, these are terminology for special contours on the mountain, not something edible) and identifying special formations, training your eyes to spot Dragons (Feng Shui code for Mountains and Mountain ranges), identify the Meridian Points (Long Xue) where the Qi concentrates and the movements of the Dragon.

It is a very physically demanding aspect of Feng Shui study – perhaps this is why Feng Shui masters see no reason to join a gym! I have certainly had my fair share of cardiovascular workouts in the course of ‘Walking the Mountains’ in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan with the Hong Kong Masters I studied with. But it is an essential aspect of the study of Feng Shui and integral to gaining a true understanding and appreciation of ancient classical texts such as Ru Di Yan (Entering Earth Eye Classics), the seminal text on Landform Feng Shui.

‘Walking the Mountains’ is particularly fun when you’re doing it in the midst of amazing scenery or in the case of my subject matter for this week, Shaolin Temple, an incredible heritage and historical spot in China.

The Origins of Shaolin

Shaolin Temple is located in Mount Song, which is one of the five major mountains of China. It is located near the city of Zhengzhou, in Henan Province. Immortalised forever by the Jet Li classic kungfu epic, Shaolin today is not only a prominent tourist attraction, but remains very much the pre-eminent place to study, learn and train in Kungfu and Wu Shu.

The existence of the Shaolin Temple and movement dates back to 495 AD and despite having been burnt down several times, the Temple has managed to stand the test of time and the turbulent periods in Chinese history. Throughout its existence, even today, it has enjoyed both the patronage of various Chinese Dynasties, and also been vilified for its role in opposing the ruling dynasty of the day, in particular, during the Qing Dynasty.

Originally, Shaolin was established to propagate Zen teachings and the philosophy of Buddhist. Kungfu and Wushu only became associated with Shaolin much later on. In fact, during the era of the Ming Dynasty, the Temple was renown not only for martial arts, but as a center of learning, providing education on philosophy, mathematics and Buddhism.

The Feng Shui of Shaolin


What is it about Shaolin that has enabled it to not only preserve its existence through the centuries, through the turbulence of Chinese history, but become the foremost center of learning for Wushu and Kungfu? And why is it that Shaolin, which originally was formed as a center to propagate the philosophies of Zen and Buddhism, came to be known more for its Kungfu and martial arts, than its more philosophical and religious components?

If you have ever visited the Shaolin Temple, you might have noticed the mountains that surround the Temple. In fact, the Temple itself is set into the mountain. These are not too lush, green and beautiful looking mountains that make you think of having a picnic there. They are mainly hard, bony and tough. The mountains have very little vegetation; they are rocky and sharp looking. In Feng Shui, these types of mountains are regarded as emitting aggressive Qi.

When it comes to big buildings, complexes and large structures like Shaolin Temple, we do not look at the Flying Stars or Eight Mansions charts of these buildings. The scope and size of the area demands that Landform (Luan Tou) Feng Shui be used.

You might be wondering how Mountains and Qi are linked. In the study of Feng Shui, Mountains are formed through the magnetic pull of the stars in the constellation. The quality of the Qi emitted by the mountains is dictated by the stars thus the type of mountain formed is influenced by the type of star that formed it. Hence, the names of Landforms like Chastity Mountain, Military Arts Mountain, Sky Horse Mountain and Literary Arts Mountain are all derived from the names of stars. In this sense, you could say that Feng Shui is a form of land-based astrology.

The residents or people living in the vicinity of the mountains are in turn affected and influenced by the Qi produced by the mountains. In Feng Shui, there is a saying, Mountains Govern People, Water Governs Wealth. Certain areas with certain types of mountains are more likely to produce or support the upbringing of certain types of people.

Now, lest you think that you can make a mountain (the kind you buy from a gardening or landscaping shop), and create the Qi to turn yourself into an Emperor, you can’t. Qi is a natural product of the environment and cannot be man-made. Feng Shui is about making use of the environment and what is natural and present in that environment. Thus, man-made objects do not emit Qi.

At Shaolin, what kind of Landforms can we see? The Temple itself faces the Bing (South 1) direction, with a river flowing in front of it from right to left at a specific directional entry and exit point that corresponds with the formation of the area. This river of course is now a dry river bed but in the past, Water would flow down the mountain contours (the Prawn Whiskers and Crab Eyes formation from the nearby mountains) and into the river that ran past the Temple entrance.

The mountain formation in the area is known as a Recoiled Dragon Formation. There is a Sun Rising Mountain Formation at the Pagoda Forest, which is Southwest of the Temple, which is a special type of Military Arts Mountain. The Table Mountain (An Shan) at Shaolin, which acts as a barrier to prevent Qi from escaping from the area, is also quite special. The Table Mountain at Shaolin is what is known as a Fu Bi Star, which hints at the area producing individuals who support nobles. The mountains are clearly what we call Military Arts (Wu Qu) mountains, which produces fighting Qi, suited for military endeavours or martial arts practice. The mountains behind the Temple have a very distinct flag shape, indicating strong Fire Qi, which is also suitable for martial arts practices.


These landforms explain many things about Shaolin. The mountains helped keep Shaolin’s name and reputation strong and alive throughout the centuries while explaining why it was able to simultaneously function as a place of learning during certain periods, and also, a shelter for rebels during certain periods. The landforms also explain why a place that began as a temple for religious study and practice, ended up becoming more renown for its kungfu and martial arts prowess, than its religious reputation.

Seeing with Feng Shui Vision

Mountain and Water together form the backbone of Landform Feng Shui and an integral aspect of understanding of the principles of Yin and Yang work in Feng Shui. When Mountains meet with Water, Yin and Yang interact and the Qi is benevolent, growing and harmonious. Hence, it is always important, when looking at the Feng Shui of an area, to look for this simple combination of Mountain and Water.

Most of the time, people tell me that they don’t ‘see’ the mountains around them. You might be wondering, how on earth can anyone ‘miss’ a mountain – it’s so obvious surely? Not always – many of my students, after they Walked the Mountains in China with me, reported seeing mountains in their hometowns for the first time!

Just like people, each and every mountain is unique. Some have ‘hair’ (that’s trees growing on the top), some are botak. Some are lush and beautiful, others are rocky and ugly. Some look healthy and vibrant, others look sick and dead. All mountains also have character: some are noble, some are fierce, some are solitary, some are powerful.

So the next time when you are driving around the Klang Valley, driving along the North-South highway to Ipoh, zipping along the Ampang Elevated Highway, visiting KLCC or going to the park in Taman Tun Dr Ismail – take a good look around you and you’ll see the Mountain that was always there, but which you never really noticed!

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Power behind the throne

Feng Shui has really undergone an evolution of sorts in the last 100 years. The commercialisation of Feng Shui, while it has created certain problems, has also brought about some positive changes to the industry. In particular, it has brought about a broadening of opportunities to study Feng Shui, which was in the past very much limited to indoor disciples only, more avenues for lay people to gain knowledge of Feng Shui through books and television, and of course, the availability of Feng Shui services to the average person.

It wasn’t always like this.

Since its renaissance in the era of the Tang Dynasty, up until probably the early 1900s, Feng Shui was exclusively the purview of the ennobled and the royal. The common average laypersons, even if they had the money, were not allowed to make use of Feng Shui. It was very much restricted to the Emperor, and perhaps a select coterie of noblemen at the higher echelons of society. Feng Shui masters didn’t ply their trade commercially, but were almost entirely and exclusively in the employ of the Emperor and noblemen.

What is the reason for this? In my previous article on the different schools of Feng Shui, I mentioned that the scope of Feng Shui extended beyond mere ‘money-making’ and that at its most powerful form; Feng Shui can play an influential role in the creation of empires. This is why for the longest time, the secrets of ‘Heaven and Earth’ as classical Feng Shui was known back then, was only to be used in the service of the Emperor. It was to be used for the preservation of the Emperor’s powers, his clan, his dynasty and his legacy.

Now, this of course, sounds like a very bold sweeping suggestion. How can Feng Shui help to create empires and Emperors? In this article, I’m going to talk about some of the ancient tombs of China’s great Dynasties and give you an idea of how Feng Shui, when wielded skilfully, can in some ways, be the power behind the throne.

Feng Shui through the Dynasties

The origins of Feng Shui, which originally was known as Kan Yu, can be traced back to a simple practice of selecting grave sites and burial grounds. Back then, Feng Shui was done mainly by applying the principles of Yin and Yang and some simple principles of Qi collection. Feng Shui in fact, was originally only used for Yin Houses or graves. It was only later in its development that these principles were extended to Yang Houses or homes.

Lest any of my readers are alarmed by this notion, let me re-assure you that there’s nothing morbid about this at all. The practice of Feng Shui, be it for Yin Houses or Yang Houses, is fundamentally and essentially the same. As I tell my students, the only difference is that in a Yang House, the occupants might move out, whilst in a Yin House, the occupants never move out! So there’s no need to feel superstitious, spooked or alarmed.

Accordingly, one of the best ways to observe the application of Feng Shui is by looking at the graves and tombs of Emperors. And this is what happens when I take my students on my annual Feng Shui excursion to China to ‘Walk the Mountains’ each year. We go and check out the graves of the great Emperors (and yes, we also look at the not-so-great ones) to see how they used and applied Feng Shui. Now, the fun in the exercise is that history affords us an opportunity to see whether their Feng Shui masters got it right, or whether they got it wrong. And yes, there are tombs which show how even the Emperors can get bad Feng Shui advice.

Why did the Emperors of the many dynasties place so much emphasis on their tombs and graves? One of the fundamental principles in Feng Shui is the principle of the Cosmic Trinity: Heaven, Earth and Man. Feng Shui constitutes the Earth component of the Cosmic Trinity, personal actions the Man component and your ancestor’s tomb, provides the Heaven connection, and links to your personal BaZi or Destiny. A good burial place, and a good tomb, ensured good descendant luck.


In addition, burying the body in a burial ground connects the family bloodline Qi with the Earth’s Qi. In turn, this makes living relatives such as sons and grandsons (and of course, in this day and age, daughters and son-in-laws) more receptive towards the Earth’s Qi in which they would use in their Yang House Feng Shui.

In the context of China’s various Dynasties, good tombs and graves served to protect the Emperor’s legacy, by ensuring that the dynasty would continue to be perpetuated and his heirs would go on to greater and better things. It’s one thing to be a great Emperor in your own right, but true greatness comes from having offspring who build and expand on what you have given them, and achieve greatness in their own right.

The 12 Hump Dragon

One of the best dynasties to study when it comes to Imperial Feng Shui is the Qing Dynasty. This is because it is a relatively recent Dynasty, having begun in 1644 and ended in 1911, and also, many of the tombs of the Qing Dynasty Emperors have been excavated or have been opened as tourist attractions in China. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of studying the Qing Dynasty tombs Feng Shui is it offers the opportunity to actually trace the rise and fall of the Qings, who were also known as the Manchus.

Many historical accounts have been written on why the Manchus, a relatively small tribe from Northeast of China (modern day Shen Yang), managed to become the Sons of Heaven and rule all of China. The betrayal of the Ming Emperor by his own generals and the decline of the Ming Dynasty over the years are usually seen as instrumental in the rise of the Manchus to the throne of China. But the ability of the Manchus to become the Sons of Heaven and rule for almost 300 years was no fluke of luck.

Three hours from Shen Yang, a modern bustling city that was once the capital city of the Manchus, you will find the Yong Ling Mausoleum. Here is where the tomb of the grandfather of Nuerhachi, the Manchu leader who united the Manchus, is located. Nuerhachi’s son, Huang TaiJi, launched the assault against the Mings and renamed the Manchus the ‘Qing’ meaning ‘Pure’.

The tomb itself is set against a majestic range of mountains that forms what is known in Landform (Luan Tou) Feng Shui as a spiral city (Lo Cheng). A spiral city is a superior Landform formation, created when a range of mountains originating from the same source curl around the Dragon Spot (Long Xue), forming a protective barrier for the Qi. This range of mountains at the Mausoleum is also a special type of Mountain, known as Chastity Star (Lian Zhen) mountains. Chastity Mountains, which are found at a specific angle aligning with a certain definitive astronomical constellation, are special because only these types of Mountains generate Qi that is, so called, Emperor-producing.


Legend has it that Nuerhachi, while carrying his grandfather’s remains through this area, in search of a suitable burial spot, placed the urn under an elm tree and rode off in search of a Feng Shui master. When he returned, the elm’s roots had wrapped around the urn, making removal impossible. The Feng Shui master declared the location to be perfect, being what is known as a ‘Reverse Dragon Facing its Ancestors Formation’ (Hui Long Gu Zu), an extremely unique and powerful formation that signifies not only achieving greatness but bringing back the spoils of victory to one’s roots or home tribe. The release of the Dragon veins is located at the prostrating An Shan (foothills) forming a unique Xuan Kong Da Gua formation.

What is of great interest or coincidence, if you are a sceptic, is that the mountain range that forms the Dragon Embrace at the Yong Ling tomb has 12 peaks, or humps as we call it in Feng Shui terminology. Well guess how many Qing Emperors there were? Exactly 12, including Nuerhachi, who is regarded as the founder of the Qing.

From greatness to downfall

Successive Emperors after Nuerhachi and Huang Taiji did well because the Emperors made an effort to ensure their tombs had good Feng Shui and thus, benefited their descendants. The Qing Dynasty’s downfall is thought to have begun after the reign of Emperor Qian Long. Indeed, this can be seen in the Feng Shui of the tombs of Emperors after Qing Long, such as DaoGuang, Xian Feng, Tongzhi and GuangXu, which are mediocre tombs at best, reflecting no doubt the fortunes of the empire at the time, which was in decay, crumbling and under assault by foreign powers.

The tomb of Emperor Qian Long offers a unique insight into how Feng Shui can tilt the balance of power, against an Empire and Dynasty. Qian Long’s tomb, located in Hebei Province, is amongst the most elaborate of all the tombs in the Eastern Qing Tomb complex. Legend has it that Qian Long personally selected the spot for his tomb.

Qian Long’s tomb suffers from a flaw known in Feng Shui as ‘Auspicious Land, Inauspicious Burial’ (Ji Di Xiong Zang). The Landforms that form the Dragon embrace around his tomb are a Cloud-Water Formation, which is considered a superior formation and Qian Long himself correctly identified the location of the Dragon Spot or Meridian spot, the concentration point for the Qi from the mountains. But, his tomb faces what is called a ‘Death and Emptiness Line’, which in simplistic terms is essentially an extremely inauspicious direction.

As the mountain formation was superior, Qian Long’s successor, Jia Qing, was able to reign for 20 years after Qian Long but his reign was not without problems. Subsequent Emperors proved to be poor performers who failed to ensure good burial tombs for themselves, thus, worsening the Feng Shui of the dynasty. It was discovered that when Qian Long’s tomb was excavated, it was waterlogged. This is generally a sign that the tomb’s Feng Shui is problematic. Feng Shui students who visit Qian Long’s tomb are often surprised that an Emperor’s tomb can have such a fundamental flaw, which just goes to show that even Emperors are not beyond bad Feng Shui.

Whilst it was Destiny or Heaven’s Will that led Nuerhachi to bury his grandfather in a place with a powerful Feng Shui formation that propelled the Manchus from mere tribe to Sons of Heaven, it was Feng Shui that helped the Empire go the distance of 12 generations, and Feng Shui that tipped the balance as the dynasty faced decline. Of course, political developments, socio-economic circumstances and world events played their role in the decline of the Qing Dynasty. I am by no means suggesting that Feng Shui is the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to shaping the course of events and history that have taken place in China. But the role of Feng Shui offers an alternative explanation of some of the critical events in China’s history and a taster of the true power of Classical Feng Shui.

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Copyright © 2008 by Joey Yap. All rights reserved worldwide.